Tag Archives: Modern American

Lunch at Sonoma — 15 August 2018

Sonoma

Sonoma

Meanwhile, back during Restaurant Week…

Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar is on Capitol Hill, a block away from the Library of Congress and two blocks from the U.S. Capitol itself. That means it gets an interesting clientele, like the two people sitting at the table next to me, who spent their lunchtime rather indiscreetly discussing the inner workings of a Republican representative’s office.

Virginia Fried Oysters

Virginia Fried Oysters

Virginia Fried Oysters on a sweet Anaheim pepper purée with a house-made bacon jam. Anaheim peppers are mild, but give some heat.

Cinnamon Braised Beef Short Ribs

Cinnamon Braised Beef Short Ribs

The main, Cinnamon Braised Beef Short Ribs with shaved Brussels sprouts, buttermilk mash, and pan jus, was the star of the meal. The Brussels sprouts were a little undercooked, to my taste, but the short ribs were excellent.

Goat Cheesecake

Goat Cheesecake

The Goat Cheesecake with marshmallow fluff and maple walnut syrup was tasty, but, once again, the portion was small. Desserts should be excessive, and give the diner those wonderful pangs of guilt one gets from hedonistic overindulgence.

I don’t have much to say about this meal. It was all right, but I not special enough to make me plan another trip to this restaurant.

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701 Restaurant — Lunch on 15 June 2018

The 701 Restaurant, named for its address at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, is one of my can’t-go-wrong dining spots in Washington. As I’ve recounted to friends—more often than absolutely necessary, they tell me—the first time I ate there, Éric Ripert was at the next table, which made me confident that no server at 701 would ever ask me if I wanted fries with that.

The restaurant is doing a month-long lunch promotion in June, celebrating peak season for fruit. Last week, it was all about peaches.

Grilled Georgia Peach

Grilled Georgia Peach

My starter was this Grilled Georgia Peach salad, with ricotta, arugula, and spiced pecans.

Duck à la Peche

Duck a la Peche

For me, when it comes to Duck Confit these days, resistance is futile. If it’s on the menu, nothing else stands a chance of winding up on my plate.

The grain at the base is farrotto, which has been described as a more robust cousin of risotto. And the peaches were roasted.

Dessert

Dessert

The meal was…a little disappointing. I guess even the best places can-go-wrong occasionally. It wasn’t a bad meal, and the service was superb, but it just wasn’t up too 701’s usual very high standards. The peaches weren’t quite ripe enough, and the portions were small.

Next time, I think I’ll stick to the regular menu.

Palette 22 — Pre-Theatre Meal on 5 June 2018

The Village at Shirlington. Image by Wells + Associates for the Federal Realty Investment Trust

The Village at Shirlington. Image by Wells + Associates for the Federal Realty Investment Trust

The Village at Shirlington is an “urban village” in Arlington County, Virginia. It’s a planned, upscale housing and retail development that blends the safety and walkability of a small-town with the urban pleasures of good restaurants and easily accessible culture. Shirlington is a perfect environment for the people David Brooks identified as “Bourgeois Bohemians”.*

I don’t go there often—It takes about an hour to get from my place at Dupont Circle to Shirlington, via Metro to the Pentagon, and then a seven-minute express bus to Shirlington Station—but, among other things, Shirlington is the home of the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre, one of the best regional theaters in the US, and I wanted to see Signature’s production of Girlfriend. (More on that in a later posting, probably. And, did you think that last sentence was ever going to end? I was about to find the nearest mirror and write “Stop Me Before I Type Again” on it in red lipstick.)

Before the show, I had dinner at Palette 22, a restaurant/art gallery. Interesting place. Everything on the crowded walls was for sale.

Sesame Steak Skewers

Sesame Steak Skewers

I ordered two dishes: The Sesame Steak Skewers and the Grilled Octopus. The servings were larger than tapas and smaller than full size, but not by much. Both selections were hot and spicy, which suited me just fine.

The octopus was served on a bed of purple potato hash and the skewers came with those thick udon noodles. Both dishes were very well prepared.

The weather on that late spring evening was perfect for dining outside, at one of the restaurant’s sidewalk tables. It’s at times like this that I take it all in, lean back, and say to myself, “I could live like this.” And then I remind myself that I already do.

Good meal. Palette 22 earns another visit.

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus


*Brooks coined the term in his 2000 book, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. He numbers himself among the BoBos. I, too, am a member of the tribe.

All Set — Lunch on 17 January 2018

2018 Winter Restaurant Week 1, Day 2

Wednesday was a brutally cold day in Washington, the kind of day that’s perfect for staying inside and researching winter vacation packages for Charleston and New Orleans. But I had a lunch date as part of Bethesda Restaurant Week, and I wasn’t about to cancel, due to my fear of being put on OpenTable’s No-Fly List and never being able to make a reservation again.

Bethesda has no official boundaries. It’s a pleasant, upper-middle class area—I suppose that description is redundant—north of Washington.

Despite its name, Bethesda Restaurant Week is not limited to restaurants in what most people think of as Bethesda. Some of them are in very rich Potomac, to the north, and some are near the District line, to the south. And one of them is in Silver Spring. It’s called All Set, and that’s where I was headed.

And I’m oh-so-glad I did.

Grilled  Octopus

Grilled  Octopus

I started with Grilled  Octopus, on a bed of chickpea purée, with chorizo butter, smoked paprika oil, and a sprinkling of celery leaves. No way could I ever duplicate this one at home, although I wish I could. Excellent!

Short Rib Ragu

Short Rib Ragu

With time and a lot of effort, though, I might be able to make something like this main of Slow Braised Short Rib Ragu. The pasta is called “Campanelle”, and is designed to work with thick sauces like this one. If you look closely, you can see the brunoise-cut carrots and celery.*

Fried Oreos

Fried Oreos

This was karma, or irony, or coincidence, or comeuppance, or some combination of the four.

When I was writing about the high quality of the food at Budapest Christmas Market a few weeks ago, I made a sneering reference to the “Deep-Fried Peanut Butter Banana Cheeseburgers…at the Texas State Fair.”

My dessert at All Set was Tempura-Battered Fried Oreos with a Chocolate Ganache.

I was wrong. I’m a convert. They were crunchy and delicious.

In summary, the food at All Set was exceptionally good, and the friendly service was excellent.

This one’s a keeper.


*I’m flaunting a newly acquired culinary vocabulary word here. I just this week learned that a brunoise cut is one that gives you cubes 1/8th inch in size. My intensive home cooking research is rewarded.  All those hours spent reading Cooking for Dummies finally pay off!

Grapeseed — Bastille Day Lunch

Bethesda’s Grapeseed doesn’t identify itself as a French restaurant, but its menu features some dishes that would be at home in any Paris bistro. I thought it would be a good place for a Bastille Day lunch.

Besides, I’ve been dining at Grapeseed for ages, and wanted to make a final visit, because it’s closing at the end of July, after 17 years. Cleveland Park’s Nam Viet, another old favourite that dates back to the turn of the century, closed just a few weeks ago, and now this. Add the closure over the past year of other restaurants I’ve enjoyed like Vidalia, the Little Fountain, Panache, and Poste, and It’s like one of those teen slasher movies from the 80s, where random characters get knocked off for no good reason.

A person given to hyperbole might think my dining scene has turned into Camp Crystal Lake, and my homey restaurants are the horny camp counselors, but of course I’d never write anything that silly….

Anyway, back to lunch.

Wild Mushroom Fricassee

Wild Mushroom Fricassee

My starter was Wild Mushroom Fricassee, something I’d never tried before. As soon as I got home, I started researching recipes for this one, because it was definitely something I want to eat again. The mushrooms were served on truffle polenta, and the sauce was rich and buttery.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

What could be more French than Steak Frites? It was exactly what I wanted.


Au Revoir, Grapeseed. You’ll be missed.

Vermilion — Lunch on 23 February 2017

The 2017 Winter Alexandria Restaurant Week runs through the weekend, but, for me, it ended Thursday with lunch in Old Town at Vermilion.

With temperatures once again in the mid 70s, it felt more like late April than February. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain. I certainly don’t regret cancelling my usual February escape to the mellow pleasures of New Orleans; this year, I was able to enjoy both New Orleans winter weather and New Orleans quality restaurants without even leaving home. I think I’ll have a Klondike Bar, and spend some time quietly contemplating what a clever animal I am.

Anyhow, Vermilion. Always excellent, always on The Washingtonian’s “100 Best Restaurants” list and The Washington Post’s annual critic’s favourite update.

It didn’t disappoint.

Cornmeal Crusted Oysters

Oysters

A great starter. Those are cornmeal crusted oysters on a citrus slaw. The swirl in the foreground is peppered Yuzu aioli. At first I thought the herb was an unfamiliar form of dill but it was fennel.

Pan Roasted Salmon

Salmon

Loved the pan roasted salmon, particularly the crusty skin. The white bean stew with chorizo was an interesting contrast.  “Pistou” is the French cousin of the Italian “pesto”, minus the pine nuts. Despite the iridescent colour, it didn’t add a lot of flavour to the dish.

Dessert

Dessert

Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake, What else needs to be said?

Warehouse Bar & Grill — Lunch on 17 February 2017

With the start of Alexandria Restaurant Week, we’re finally in the home stretch of this year’s winter dining marathon.

I’ve come to think of this as one of my big annual projects. Starting in late December, I spend a huge amount of time planning: reading reviews, researching menus and locations, balancing places I’ve never tried with proven favourites, searching for something interesting and new. From mid-January through sometime in February, my days are largely built around Lunch. After that, I turn my focus to planning what I still think of as Spring Break. (This year, I’ll be spending Spring Break in Venice. The one in Italy, not the one in California.)

Then in August, the cycle begins again.

I’ve always agreed with the idea that “living well is the best revenge”, and in a way, I’m now getting revenge for all those tuna-salad-on-Wonderbread lunches I used to make in younger, hungrier days.

Okay, back to Alexandria.

This was my first visit to the Warehouse Bar & Grill, which is two blocks from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria.

Soup

Soup

The menu said that She-Crab soup was the restaurant’s specialty, and it lived up to the description.

Tilapia

Tilapia

My main was Horseradish-Crusted Tilapia, with lump crab meat and a champagne leek sauce. It came with smashed potatoes and fresh asparagus.

One of the frequent criticisms of Restaurant Week is that some restaurateurs feature less expensive ingredients in their selections. Salmon, for instance, is unavoidable—it shows up on almost every menu.

Tilapia is another example. But this plate, with the lump crab meat and the champagne leek sauce, tasted anything but cheap. Excellent main.

Service here was also exemplary.


You may have noticed the absence of a picture of my dessert. The reason is a little embarrassing. I had strawberries and cream, and it looked so tempting that I was half way through it before I realized I’d forgotten to take a picture.